Category Archives: Carol’s Homework

Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.

 

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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 2

 Cinder: Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer419rjQNqYhL

First chapter is 16 pages.

The first line: “The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, …” Quite the attention getter. There’s enough information given between the back cover blurb, the inside flap blurb, and the cover itself for us to know that she’s a cyborg. We don’t know how much, but we can safely assume it’s at least the foot.

The first page focuses on her removing her foot. She struggles getting the rusted screw out, then fighting with the other hardware and, finally, just letting her foot dangle from her leg by its wires. We discover not only her foot but one hand as well is artificial.

Second page begins a detailed point of scene. She has a stall filled with used android and other odds and ends electronic and mechanical in nature. We also get a picture of the stall’s position with relation to other stalls in the crowded market square in New Beijing.

Third page, also finishes with her removing the foot completely.

Because of children playing Ring Around the Rosy, a recently revived game originating during ancient plague times, there’s a hint of a plague or some other widespread health issue.

We are introduced to Sacha the baker and her disdain for Cinder because of her differences from “real” humans. There’s inner dialogue from Cinder indicating a few of the vendors in her area are aware of her differences and are somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Prince Kaito arrives with a broken android. (No, not his tablet, but a walking, talking android, or it was before it broke.) Cinder recognizes the Crown Prince, and the handsomest man in all of New Beijing. We deal with her stammering and fan craziness for a page or so.

For the next five pages we are filled with all kinds of things that might be wrong with the android: it’s old, the problem isn’t readily apparent, how was it acting before it stopped completely, etc., etc., etc. Along with the troubleshooting Q&A, we get a glimpse of character development and some insight into Cinder’s abilities. Possible spoiler: There’s more to her cyborg-ness than just her foot.

Cinder’s android assistant shows up with Cinder’s replacement foot. Cinder makes excuses claiming it’s for another client. Her assistant, though android, is smitten with the prince as well.

When all the arrangements are made for Cinder to work on the android and get it ready for the prince to pick up in a few days, the prince departs.

Shortly after his departure a scream is heard across the way. Sacha the baker has the plague… End chapter.

Okay, four characters in eleven pages. There were other people milling about, a group of kids, but nobody with any real presence, they’re there for point of scene. Sacha is removed from the equation fairly fast, so, basically, we have three characters who, from all appearances, will be central to the story.

There was a lot of useful information and character development in the first chapter. Some of it was a little drawn out, but informative nevertheless. Some things I can definitely take and use.

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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post-WIFYR (Yes, I said “POST”)

The assignment is to read the first chapter of 50 books in the Middle-Grade and Young Adult venue. They can be sci-fi, fantasy, or into whatever genre they fall. I am to read them from a writer’s perspective, paying special attention to: intro to main characters, plot development, intro to other characters, anything useful that points to why these books start out well and, as a result, get published.

So here is the first book. “Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook” by Mary Amato. Middle-Grade. 140 pages.61K7EpEI-qL

From the School Library Journal:

The kids at Wordsmith Elementary School get a lesson on poetry when a thief stages a series of classroom thefts, leaving behind small poems at the scene of the crime. Edgar Allan keeps notes in his crime journal and writes some verses of his own as his classmates compete to solve the mystery. He thinks his home life is strange with his parents both employed as clowns, but when he learns more about the thoughts and personal lives of his classmates through the poetry they write, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and his community. With characters named Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and a teacher who drinks Tennyson Tea, readers will get thinly veiled lessons describing alliteration, meter, and metaphor. … A good springboard for introducing poetry units.

Opening paragraph shows the reader the crime of stealing the class goldfish.

Characters introduced:

  1. Edgar Allan (MC)
  2. Ms. Herschel (teacher)
  3. Kip (a skinny boy whose leg was jiggling against his desk)
  4. Taz (the class clown)
  5. Maia (the person who gave the fish to the class)
  6. Gabriella (the new girl)
  7. Destiny Perkins (Another classmate. I’m guessing she’s going to be an important character later. She’s the first character given both names)
  8. Patrick Chen (Edgar’s nemesis)

Eight characters introduced in the first four pages. One complaint about my storyline was the introduction of five characters in eight pages. Apparently too many characters are not always an issue. Further study on this will be necessary.

It’s a fast beginning. The theft, the discovery, several theories of who did it, and Edgar and Patrick’s competition to discover the culprit before the other are all laid out by the end of the first chapter (page 6). Fast paced and quick. That part I get.

One comment in a review section said, “It’s a little slow paced as the story progresses and sometimes Edgar seems to think older than a fifth grader.” To people who consider that fifth graders must sound a certain way and be only so intelligent, I divert your attention to “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

I had similar complaints that my characters sound older. They sound like I sounded at 14-16. My friends were, for the most part, the same way. We were avid readers and had been for a decade or more by that age. Nerdy kids who read a lot don’t sound like kids who don’t. They don’t think the same way either. I may try to tone it down some, but if I do it too much, the characters will lose their personalities.

I’ll definitely finish Edgar Allan’s Official… It has the makings of a good ride.

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